Aged care staffing crisis is not taken seriously

Article published 13 October 2021

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THERE is something very weird about the CompliSpace Aged Care Workforce Report. The pictures in this report are of nursing home residents who look happy and relaxed and of nursing home staff who look happy and relaxed.

Yet the subtitle is, A Perfect Storm: What’s Driving Australia’s Aged Care Staffing Crisis.

This report harks back to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which found that 57 per cent of residents live in homes that have “unacceptable” levels of staffing and therefore unacceptable quality of care. Australia needs at least 41,000 more direct-care workers right now just to achieve acceptable levels of staffing, the report says.

To reach best-practice, a 49 per cent increase in staffing is needed. That’s at least 101,000 more workers.

However, this report reveals that the industry is about to go backwards, rather than forwards. An impending crisis of staff turn-over is emerging with 180,000 workers planning to leave the industry in the next five years. This includes 110,000 workers planning to leave the industry in the next three years and 47,000 within the next twelve months.

The report notes that residential aged care workers continue to receive lower pay than comparable workers in other industries.

What’s been the Australian Government’s response so far to these findings?

It is going to spend $135.6 million to reward nurses who take on additional training. Full-time registered nurses can receive a payment of $3,700 for each year and part-time and casual registered nurses can receive payment on a pro-rata basis, averaging $2,700 each year.

In other words, to get a few thousand dollars extra for two years, registered nurses will have to (1) stay where they are and (2) work harder than they already do.

What a plan!

Other than that, the Government has accepted recommendation 75 of the Royal Commission to establish an Aged Care Workforce Planning Division in the Department of Health by 1 January 2022.

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